We just got word that Kim Rivera, the 27-year-old soldier and mother of three who deserted to Toronto and who you'll remember from "Gimme Shelter," cover story from the paper version of Unfair Park back in March, has gotten one last chance to stay in Canada. On Tuesday a Canadian federal judge sided with her lawyer, Alyssa Manning, and determined that Rivera deserved the opportunity to file a new pre-removal risk assessment -- an analysis of what she'd face if she returned to the U.S., including court martial and jail time. The officer who reviewed the first risk assessment, ruled Judge James Russell, didn't sufficiently take into account Manning's argument that Rivera could face differential punishment for speaking out against the war after deserting.
"It was a complete relief," Rivera told The Canadian Press in the wake of the ruling. (We haven't been able to reach her, but if we do, we'll post an update.)
"What Kim and her lawyer put forward was the evidence of what has happened to other U.S. soldiers who have deserted and spoken out," Michelle Robidoux, spokesman for the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto, tells Unfair Park. "Soldiers who have spoken out publicly in opposition to the war have faced targeted punishment while a majority of deserters get an administrative discharge." Boise soldier Robin Long, she points out, was ordered to serve 15 months in a Naval brig near San Diego. "Now Kim will get a chance to have her PRRA looked at again with that issue front and center," Robidoux says.
When this came up as we were reporting our cover story on Rivera and other U.S. deserters, U.S. Army spokesmen denied that deserters who'd spoken out against the war are punished more harshly, pointing out that the Army has stepped up enforcement of desertion across the board. Robidoux, though, maintains that's not true, saying that in Long's case, Army lawyers presented at a hearing television footage of him speaking out against the war.
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Rivera has a month to submit a new pre-removal risk assessment, and Robidoux says they expect a decision in two to four months. "If they find she does not face persecution they'll give her a new date to leave voluntarily or face deportation. If she wins, then she gets to stay here."